In a search and rescue scramble that gripped the world’s attention for more than two weeks, the last of 12 Thai youth soccer players and their coach are safely rescued and transported to a local hospital on this day in 2018.
On June 23, 2018, Ekkapol Chantawong, 25, and his players, who ranged in age from 11-16, set out to explore the Tham Luang cave network in what was intended to be a fun, hour-long, after-practice adventure when they were trapped underground as monsoon rains flooded the cave’s entrance.
A search for the Wild Boars teammates and their coach took nine days, when two elite British divers located the group on July 2, 2018, approximately 2.5 miles from the cave’s entrance. They were alive but malnourished, exhausted and running out of oxygen, and the dangerous, tight and twisting passageways, with strong currents, made getting the team out a logistical nightmare.
After efforts to drain the cave, considerations of waiting it out for monsoon season to end in four months and teaching the team to swim and scuba dive, one thing became certain: They would have to go underwater in scuba gear to escape.
On July 8, the first four boys were led out of the cave by an international team of cave diving experts including Thai Navy SEALS, attached to the divers with ropes and harnesses. On July 9, four more boys are rescued and on July 10, the remaining four boys and coach are rescued after spending 17 days in the cave. The boys were sedated with the drug ketamine during the daring rescue and wore wet suits and full face masks to provide oxygen. All were all released from the hospital one week later.
The event resulted in one fatality: A volunteer diver and former Thai Navy SEAL, Saman Kunan, 38, died July 6, when he ran out of oxygen underwater while attempting to deliver oxygen tanks to the boys.